~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More On Motorcycle Art

I've always enjoyed art. By that I mean the real stuff like original paintings, drawings, and sculpture done by people with actual talent. I took a lot of art classes in school, enough to know that my future did not lay in commercial art and certainly not in fine art. Sadly, I have little talent for such things which is probably why I enjoy so much looking at art, visiting galleries, and talking to artists. I view the works unencumbered by the notion that somehow I could do better, knowing that genuine creativity as with riding a motorcycle well, is more difficult than it looks.

To me creating a work of art like a painting or drawing seems almost magical; the ability to see and then translate the visual through the mental and back to the visual again via the hands a gift to be treasured and respected. To be able to create motorcycle art must surely be a double pleasure, you get to ride and then re-tell in visible way what you saw and felt or even only imagined.   My participation in art has been pretty much limited to simple admiration and the acquisition of a few interesting posters signed by famous racers. No, none of the posters are biker babe posters or the well-known "Mikuni Calendar."

I do love take pictures with my camera and shoot a great many but I don't consider myself good enough to call myself a photographer. There are too many really fine photographers out there to put myself in their league. Professional quality photography takes more work and knowledge than most people suspect. Great motorcycle racers make going fast look easy, great photographers make shooting great pictures look easy. If it was easy we'd all be Valentino Rossi or Ansel Adams.
I've commented a time or two in the past on the excellent art of Jason Watt. Jason continues to turn out impressive drawings legendary riders new and old and for increasingly high profile clients. A recent work:

original art by Jason Watt
In the past, for the most part motorcycle art seemed to consist of either old racing posters or cheesy, over done paintings of choppers roaring into the sunset. There may have been more or better stuff but the chance to see it was fairly limited. I happened to see Harry Miller's excellent work and one or two others at the Del Mar Concours many years ago and that was pretty much it for nice motorcycle art as far as I could tell. Most of the story of motorcycling has been documented with a camera and words rather immortalized with a paintbrush.

The bikes of today are the best ever, the safety gear the best ever, and the brotherhood of the road as good as ever so it's nice then that in the area of art that motorcycling no longer has to ride pillion in the art world except perhaps in the mind of art snobs. Even those are fewer in number since the Guggenheim Museum with it's "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibition elevated bike design itself to the level of art in the public mind. With the current generation of riders more well fixed financially than ever before, working artists have a more of a reason to create fine motorcycle art. It's truly satisfying to see another area of motorcycling being expanded and brought to a higher level.

So in my web ramblings I've run across many, many artists now doing motorcycle subjects and one I ran across today is Don Greytak. Up in Montana Don has been busy drawing scenes of farm life in a way somewhat reminiscent of Norman Rockwell but in black and white. If you grew up on a farm or spent any real time on a farm you're bound to have some memories stirred by his work.

Often part and parcel with farm life in days gone by were motorcycles. Greytak captures this nicely as part of rual life alone with the tractors, animals, and other more obvious elements. The reason old Indians and Harleys were so often reputed to be found in barns was because motorcycles in days of yore provided a good alternative transportation (and fun) for a farmer or his sons. In fact, my first ride ever on a motorcycle was on my Uncle Harold's farm back about 1962 or '63 on a little Honda 50. Uncle Harold's son Jerry had a Triumph 650 that frightened me with it's sheer size (I got over that).

Don Greytak's drawings (lead image in this entry) are evocative and really capture wonderful slices of motorcycling's past. They truly tell a story and despite the fact that the stories told would pre-date my own era of riding by a good bit, the feelings and moments seen are still occurring, just with different machines and a bit less innocence. It's not hard to look at the people rolling away on their big, '40 or '50s era machines and imagine yourself doing just that. The only difference now is the bike. The smiles and the feeling of adventure are still the same.

If you want to decorate your home or apartment think about dropping some bucks on something nicer than the Castrol race poster you got for free last year at the races or bike show. You'll find that good artwork is a joy to own and brings out those good ride feelings even when it's too cold or wet to ride. Your wife or girlfriend might even be impressed that you are developing artistic tastes beyond "Dogs Playing Poker."

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence



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